Meatpacking Plant

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Meatpacking Plant

Underage, she worked
under her sister’s name
for months,
metal fingerguard sweating, nearly mis-
slicing when the managers, all men, sidled up behind,
hot breath
at her hairnet,
chortling over
the blood in her cheeks–
sure that they could tell.

A year after leaving, needing something temp, she applied again
as herself,
explaining that she had, in fact,
experience.
They kept their distance
showing her out.

************************************
Here’s a little poem for Mama Zen’s prompt on With Real Toads With Real Toads to write something for Boss Day in 67 words or less. (This is 66 minus title–sorry, MZ.) It is a true story of my mother working as a young girl during the Depression at a meatpacking plant, posing as her older sister because she was not old enough herself to work.

I’m sure that it was a pork packing plant, but I have this picture of a cow ready, and it’s such an innocent little cow, it seemed somehow appropriate.

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19 Comments on “Meatpacking Plant”

  1. Kerry O'Connor Says:

    There is a whole story here, a slice of history, and all managed in under 70 words. I was transported to another time and place.

  2. hedgewitch Says:

    Interesting to be turned down as yourself…and working in a packing plant would take something I haven’t got, for sure. But the poem perhaps hits on the essence of the difference between ‘work’ and ‘career,’ as well as the inherent, impossible to separate hidden currents that some bosses exude around women/other minorities.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      I think she was turned down as herself because they realized then that she had involved them in child labor violations and didn’t particularly want to have more to do with her! Crazy though. I had a line I had to cut due to the word count, but she answered to his sister’s name all the time she was there. That must have been strange. k.

      On Thu, Oct 17, 2013 at 10:34 AM, ManicDDaily

  3. Susan Chast Says:

    The calf is perfect. Girl/heifer ready for sacrificial rite — Those guys who prey on innocents don’t want anyone who knows their game. Good story.

  4. brian miller Says:

    not easy work at all…and working conditions there could not have been the best either…everyone out of work you are really expendable as well..def child labor was different too..interesting to be turned away trying to be yourself…

  5. grapeling Says:

    perfectly captured vignette, K

  6. Margaret Says:

    …I have a feeling their were a few “crimes” they could be charged with… sigh

  7. Mama Zen Says:

    Brilliantly done. Love the understatement in the close.

  8. Kay Davies Says:

    Awful place to work, and an awe-filled poem…the things women had to do during tough times.
    There’s a meatpacking plant about an hour west of here, and even with all the modern technology, the odor can be smelled for miles. Not a place I’d ever work. I wouldn’t even want to live in that town.
    K

  9. Helen Dehner Says:

    I am mesmerized by your artwork … and your poetry!


  10. My mother worked at a meat packing plant…she hated it. So creative to open a page in history and let us peek in and “see” so much through your words.

  11. janehewey Says:

    I admire her courage and pluck.
    My hometown in western Iowa is home to a large meat packing plant. We took career field trips to experience the activity inside. The combination of pink mess and male pride is stuck in my memory.
    I couldn’t do it. I don’t think I took one breath during the field trip. You aptly capture subtle and not-so subtle human interactions in this poem. The blood in her cheeks a very nice touch.
    I adore your calf illustration. It lightens the mood considerably. : )

  12. Jamie Dedes Says:

    A spirited mother then, but sad for her and sad for the cow.


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